2. The Development Partnership in 2007/08

The Cambodia Declaration on Enhancing Aid Effectiveness identifies mutual trust and accountability as the basis for an effective development partnership. Empirical evidence, including the 2006 TWG Review and the 2007 JMI Report, suggests that the transition to nationally-led programmatic support requires a set of competencies that are markedly different from the technical skills usually associated with project management. To support this transition, and to promote the enhanced performance of the TWGs, deliberate efforts have therefore been made to develop both development partner and Government partnership skills. Most recently this has included an Evaluation of Aid Effectiveness and an independent review of progress. This chapter discusses partnership initiatives that have taken place since the June 2007 CDCF and reflects on the findings of the Evaluation. Together they emphasise the need for continued effort, including to foster increased trust and understanding, in order to secure improved development effectiveness.

A call for accelerated implementation

The second half of 2007 was marked with a determined effort to accelerate implementation of the H-A-R Action Plan. Observing at the First CDCF meeting that "It is time to implement the commitments we have made", the Government presentation met with a favourable response from development partners. As a result there appeared to be a firm consensus on: (i) respecting institutional arrangements, improving aid information and predictability; (ii) strengthening linkages between the budget and sector plans; (iii) the need to reduce aid fragmentation through 'division of labour' initiatives and delegated co-financing; (iv) improved management of technical cooperation; and (v) promoting mutual accountability and improved TWG and GDCC partnership fora. CDCF delegates agreed that this consensus provided the welcome prospect of accelerated implementation of activities that would immediately impact on NSDP priorities.

Consolidating a partnership-based institutional framework

One of the practical constraints to understanding applying agreed institutional procedures relates to the high turnover of development partner personnel. To ameliorate this problem, CRDB/CDC organised and led a seminar for new development partners in November 2007. In his opening remarks, and making reference to the CDCF dialogue, the Secretary General of CRDB/CDC observed that:

"Much remains to be done. For Government, we need to continue to strengthen our aid management practices, turning from the design of policy frameworks to their actual implementation. For development partners there needs to be a change in mindset, behaving less like aid bureaucrats, serving your own agendas, and more like development professionals, understanding the context of Cambodia, learning how to engage effectively, and reforming aid practices that fragment capacity and have little impact on development results. Actions on both sides can be seen to be part of our mutual accountability agenda."

The seminar then covered the institutional and organisational arrangements for managing the development partnership and associated tools and processes such as the GDCC, TWGs, JMIs and the ODA Database. In the future the resources used for this seminar will be posted on-line so that new development partner personnel can routinely access this information in an e-learning format.

Equipping TWGs with the basic tools

The TWG capacity assessment, conducted as an internal Government exercise in June 2007, identified factors that constrain the effective management and performance of TWGs. While stronger partnering skills were considered essential, especially at senior management level, it was also deemed necessary to develop capacities in the secretariats to ensure their smooth functioning and management. These capacities related to technical needs, for example the requirement to have an increased appreciation of the tools and processes that underlie the H-A-R Action Plan, such as programmatic approaches, but also the need to feel more comfortable with the jargon of aid effectiveness: the meaning of mutual accountability, for example, and the distinction between alignment and harmonisation.

As a response, CRDB/CDC developed a two-week course in the principles of aid management. This course was delivered in collaboration with the National College of Public Administration and Governance at the University of the Philippines and, in two separate sessions, has trained 60 persons across all 19 TWGs in the Paris Declaration, its national application, the techniques involved in promoting effective aid, approaches to incorporating cross-cutting priorities such as gender, and measures that can be taken to enhance national ownership and mutual accountability.

Other challenges and constraints were more basic in nature. Common problems included language and interpretation problems; facilities and resources with which to produce and dispatch documents; specific training and equipment needs; and an opportunity for learning and peer exchange. CRDB/CDC has therefore established a TWG Secretariat Network and has provided access to block grant funds.

The TWG Network has since met to exchange views on the experience of managing secretariats and working in a multi-stakeholder environment, and also to receive training on programme-based approaches. Block grant support, endorsed by the chair and the lead development partner facilitator of the respective TWG, has been made available to ten TWGs to support administration costs, equipment, translation services, and merit-based performance incentives1.This block grant initiative is seen as an interim arrangement to ensure that no TWG is constrained by administrative obstacles. It does not, however, absolve Government ministries and development partners who are active in that sector from their responsibility to ensure that TWG activities and secretariat support are resourced from their own funds in the future.

Capacity development as the foundation for effective partnerships

The role of development cooperation in facilitating capacity development, primarily through the provision of technical cooperation (TC) is perhaps the most fundamental test of the development partnership. Given that development cooperation is premised on supporting a transition in society between a present and a future state, the ability of Government and development partners to collaborate in establishing a shared vision, to jointly implement agreed activities, and to review and learn together from their experience will provide the basis for determining the overall effectiveness of aid delivery and management in Cambodia.

Technical Cooperation: 10 main findings

1.     There is only mixed evidence to show that TC has made a significant contribution to development results.

2.     Approaches to TC have failed to be responsive to the operating environment or the socio-cultural context.

3.     Innovation and experimentation, engaging with national counterparts to identify more appropriate approaches such as South-South cooperation, has been lacking.

4.     TC often achieves its project-level objectives yet is not associated with a holistic capacity needs assessment and fails to impact on organisational performance.

5.     Few detailed assessments of TC impact have been undertaken, limiting the sharing and application of knowledge.

6.     Many of the capacity and reform challenges are complex in nature and require coordinated multi-sectoral networked responses.

7.     Significant non-aid examples of effective capacity development indicate that TC is stuck in a 'post-conflict recovery' mode in which TC may be merely 'tolerated' by an aid-dependent Government.

8.     Drawing away qualified staff from Government by development partners creates a parallel market and limits the effectiveness of capacity development activities.

9.     A more coordinated and harmonised approach to TC provision reduces the 'competition for influence' and sets the stage for more coherent national leadership.

10.  Alleviating constraints may require a non-technical intervention of a political nature.

Based on empirical evidence in the 2007 Aid Effectiveness Report and further dialogue at the CDCF, it was agreed that urgent action was required to reform the delivery and management of technical cooperation. Although this problem was not new to Cambodia, nor indeed to the rest of the developing world, the focus placed on capacity development by Government, and in particular by the Council for Administrative Reform (CAR), warranted two new pieces of independent analytical work, one to consider the role and performance of technical cooperation in supporting capacity development and the other to provide complementary empirical evidence from the health sector.

These studies, and further dialogue between Government and development partners, identified a number of issues that are of primary importance to the overall development partnership and require that changes be made the approach taken by both Government and development partners (see box). One element of the study that provided particular insight into the relationship dynamics concerned the formal and informal incentives and behavioural norms on both sides of the development partnership. Profound cultural differences, contrasting perspectives on the nature of the development partnership and the obligations it places on both parties are often the basis for misunderstanding, the study found, sometimes resulting in deteriorating aid relations and unfavourable capacity development outcomes.

As a result of this work and additional consultations, a Government Position Paper was drafted for discussion and, on that basis, a Guideline has since been prepared. This will be consolidated with CAR's own work on capacity development and human resource management, ensuring complementarity between Government and development partner initiatives at both central reform and sector levels.

The potential for increased use of South-South capacity development modalities was also recognised and efforts were made to strengthen partnerships and mutual learning initiatives at a regional level. These

included a two-day seminar hosted by the Government in Phnom Penh in June for counterparts from Papua New Guinea, Viet Nam and Indonesia, and a joint study on mutual accountability undertaken in August by Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam. Both of these initiatives were considered to be highly successful, not least because of their mutual learning nature and the spirit of cooperative exchange that is the hallmark of the South-South approach. The Guideline on the use of TC, consistent with the 'Cambodianisation' approach of CAR's work on capacity development, therefore emphasises the use of alternative and innovative approaches to supporting capacity through the reformed delivery and management of TC.

Global partnerships and aid effectiveness initiatives

The Government participated in a number of initiatives and activities in the build up-to the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, which took place in Accra in September 2008. Combining this global analysis with national empirical evidence provides a useful benchmark by which to gauge progress in Cambodia and to identify priority actions for NSDP implementation and Phase II of the Rectangular Strategy.

The principal exercise for Cambodia in 2008 was the Paris Declaration monitoring survey. This was simplified by making extensive use of the Cambodia ODA Database and was characterised by strong cooperation between Government and development partners. The results are shown below in Table Two (and discussed in the next chapter) but, as the global analysis also highlights, they must be interpreted with caution. There was little opportunity to validate the data as it relied on development partner reporting, resulting in inconsistent methodology and starkly different approaches between reporting partners and across time. Continued concern as regards the utility of the indicators and their relevance to Cambodia was therefore a topic for consideration during the Evaluation that took place in the last quarter of 2008.

Table Two.  Paris Declaration Monitoring Indicators for Cambodia

No.

Indicator

2005 Baseline
(2006 survey)

2007 Status
(2008 survey)

2010 Target

1

Implementation of national plans and frameworks

C

C

B or A

2

Quality of PFM systems (CPIA rating)

2.5

3.0

3.5

3

Aid reported on budget

79%

85%

90%

4

Coordinated technical cooperation

36%

35%

50%

5a

Use of country PFM systems

10%

12%

tbc

5b

Use of country procurement systems

6%

16%

tbc

6

Parallel PIUs

49

121

16

7

In-year predictability of aid flows

69%

96%

85%

8

Untied aid

86%

99%

> 86%

9

Use of programme-based approaches

24%

28%

66%

10a

Coordinated missions

26%

12%

50%

10b

Coordinated country analytical work

58%

17%

70%

11

Sound performance assessment framework

C

C

B or A

12

Reviews of mutual accountability

Yes

Yes

Yes

While participation in the global initiative has significantly reinforced Cambodia's own efforts, including by galvanising development partners who may be more responsive to internal drivers of change than those established nationally, the possibility that the Paris Declaration may have become a 'double-edged sword' for national aid effectiveness also arises. Most notably, the road to Accra in 2008 became somewhat pitted and potholed as the number of pilot and diagnostic studies quickly escalated, placing a strain on Government as it sought to reconcile its enthusiasm to participate in global work with the need to make headway in implementing its own national work programme2.Second, there is increasing evidence, also discussed during the Evaluation, that the process may have become increasingly technocratic and formulaic, captured by a narrow posse of aid effectiveness experts, and over-shadowing innovation and nationally-determined responses. Finally, and as discussed above, the survey may distract attention towards a narrow set of indicators that may not reflect the true nature of Cambodia's own challenges (and, in extreme cases, may even distort incentives to accurately report progress).

The value of the Paris Declaration may therefore be seen in the opportunity it provides to leverage global commitments and apply them to Cambodia's own H-A-R Action Plan priorities. In this regard the Accra Agenda for Action represents useful progress as it emphasises the need for more urgency, making firm commitments to more predictable aid, the use of national systems as the default option, reduced aid fragmentation, and increased effort to mainstream cross-cutting issues such as gender and the environment into sectoral work. All of these commitments resonate strongly with Cambodia's own priorities and therefore feature in the discussion of policy recommendations and actions presented in Chapter Five.

Partnership reflections based on the Evaluation of Aid Effectiveness in Cambodia

The Evaluation was timed to coincide with post-Accra deliberations and to provide an opportunity for both Government and development partners to consider progress and chart the future direction for the implementation of the H-A-R Action Plan. Comprising chiefly of a self-assessment exercise for development partners and TWGs, and combined with an independent review, the Evaluation has emphasised the need for a sharper focus on fewer priorities, although not a revision of the H-A-R Action Plan itself. It underlined the need to make aid effectiveness work more direct, less process-focused and more strongly linked to central and line ministry activities that will contribute positively to national development.

Key issues raised during the Evaluation are identified in the adjacent box, some of which are elaborated further in Chapter Three. The issues most requiring a policy response are:

  • Leadership successful initiatives all bear the hallmark of determined leadership, ability to engage in constructive partnerships and to develop capacity.

  • Mutual responsibilities there is a need for action at multiple levels: central ministry links, engagement of sectors, development partner incentives, and joint dialogue fora. 

  • Fatigue since establishing policy frameworks and processes, core Government and development partner practitioners have become locked into an inward-looking process, struggling to engage others in their implementation.

Conclusion

Continued effort by both Government and development partners demonstrates that commitment to stronger partnerships exists. It is difficult to conclude, however, that this resolve has been translated into effective implementation of agreed priority actions as all of the recommendations endorsed at the CDCF still require further reflection and implementation.

Aid Effectiveness Evaluation

1.    The overall picture is very mixed with clear evidence of significant progress in some sectors contrasted by difficulty in others

2.    Leadership and capacity both Government and development partner - are the most notable determinants of success

3.    Linkages between central government agencies are critical to consolidating past achievements in NSDP management

4.    Sector programmes should focus on concrete activities to establish the plan resource activity results linkage

5.    An excessively technical and detailed approach may serve as a drag; clearer political directives may accelerate progress

6.    A broader group of stakeholders, including amongst the national Assembly and civil society must engage as the process matures

7.    Alignment and development effectiveness may require re-allocation of aid resources towards agriculture and decentralised services

8.    Relationship dynamics require a re-tooling by both Government and development partners to enhance partnership competencies

9.    Associating aid with enhanced capacity development in the context of reform may provide the basis of future aid programming

10.  Overcoming 'fatigue' requires a sharpening of priorities, broader engagement and greater mutual accountability for results

Before turning to the quantitative analysis in the following chapter, the evidence derived here from a qualitative review already indicates that apparent activity has resulted in little more than fatigue the independent review observed that aid effectiveness work may be at risk of "drowning in its own process". This suggests that a more pragmatic and operational approach is required, emphasising a role for clearer political directives and stronger leadership from both Government and development partners to displace the tendency to resort to increasingly complex analysis, technocratic solutions and excessively detailed plans that frequently falter in the implementation stage.

Such an approach would require the creation of new opportunities to build trust between senior Government officials and their development partner counterparts, particularly at TWG level, and to identify a more limited number of mutually agreed priorities that can be achieved with the resources and capacity of both parties. This position resonates quite strongly with the Rectangular Strategy and the NSDP Mid-term Review that appealed for more forthright resolve in support of identified development priorities.


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